CANTON -- Danielle O’Meara came into her senior season with the goal of setting a new standard for the Cherokee girls lacrosse team.
The four-year varsity player had plenty of individual production, but her teams had never won more than seven games in a season. O'Meara, however, was able to help flip the script in her final season to lead Cherokee to an 11-7 record.
“My personal goals were just to be a good captain, because I’ve struggled with that in the past,” said O'Meara, the 2019 Cherokee Ledger-News Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year. “I just wanted to make sure my teammates knew I was always there for them. I wanted to have a winning season for the first time and make sure everyone was on the same page.”
While O’Meara had always done her part on the field, the biggest change this season were her efforts to be a better captain outside of games.
O'Meara was first named a captain as a junior, and with a year of experience in the position, she came into the season with a better idea of how to work with her team.
“I’m not always personable,” O’Meara said. “I’m very serious about lacrosse, and I know I can come off a little strong. I got better and grew up. I think I just learned to handle some situations better.”
With O’Meara and coach Jamie Hunt leading the way, Cherokee showed signs that it could be different with an undefeated run through the fall season.
The regular season had new challenges, though, as the Lady Warriors stumbled to a 4-6 start.
“I knew we had a chance to be pretty good during the fall season,” O’Meara said. “We had the chemistry there. We had kind of a rough start to the spring season. We had some come-to-Jesus meetings to get on the same page, and once we did, everything kind of came together. You could just see the potential of the team.”
O’Meara kept her production going on the field with 79 goals and 19 assists. Those numbers did not come easily, though, as she remained the focal point for every opposing defense she faced.
“They’re definitely coming after me with double- and triple-teams,” O'Meara said. “It’s stressful, but I know I have help. It can help the team, because it can open up my teammates. It can be frustrating at times, but it’s just something you have to deal with.”
Helping take some of the pressure off O’Meara was the emergence of several of her teammates.
The rest of the Lady Warriors -- led by midfielder Kylie Dunlap -- provided more balance than Cherokee had in recent seasons and allowed O’Meara to play more efficiently.
“Having help was great,” O'Meara said. “It let me relax a little bit on the field. I could just focus on my own game as part of the team’s game. Everyone just played a big part, no matter what position they were in. It was definitely a team effort all season.”
After leading Cherokee to the best season in team history, O'Meara will look to provide the same impact next season when she begins her college career at North Greenville.
“I think I’ll get some playing time,” she said. “It’s tough to know coming in as a freshman. I’m just going to keep working on my skills and getting comfortable with my new teammates.”